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May 03, 2020 2 min read

By Jesmar Arévalo

Next Tuesday will be May 5th, a day in the United States that is often confused with Mexico's Independence Day. The historical moment that gave rise to this holiday occurred more than fifty years after the date on which Mexico's war of independence began. So, if this is a Mexican tradition why do we celebrate it in the US?

You'll be surprised to know the 5 of May is not widely celebrated in Mexico. But in several cities in the US, it is a perfect date to celebrate with a big party and listening to some music.

Contrary to popular belief, this date commemorates an unexpected victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. So, it is well known in Mexico but mainly celebrated in Puebla.

The victory was a total surprise for Mexican forces, but it was brief, as soon after France occupied Mexico for a few years. In any case, May 5th continued to be celebrated in Puebla and, more interestingly, north of the border by some Mexican Americans.

So, here is how it became an important economic driver for entrepreneurs and beverage companies across the United States.In the early 1960s, many Mexican-American activists fighting in the U.S. civil rights movement used that day to show their pride in their roots.

In 1989, an importer of Mexican beers launched an advertising campaign targeted to that celebration. Initially, the campaign was aimed at Latinos, but later it was extended to a wider audience with television and print ads. So, this worked to reinforce the “Cinco de Mayo” celebration. That is one of the reasons why nowadays, people associate this date with drinking beer, without knowing what they are celebrating.

This day has become important, and the marketing of 5 de Mayo has been very successful. A market research agency reported in 2013, Americans bought more than $600 million worth of beer for 5 de Mayo. This amount exceeded the profits for even the Super Bowl or St. Patrick's Day.

A funny story around “Cinco de Mayo”

Piñatas are a common way to celebrate this date every year. They are very popular in Mexico, and they have been adapted to the times and this date. But you will also see on social networks, images of mayonnaise boats, and tacos used to greet and celebrate the day. In this context, a funny anecdote related to a lexical error was created and embraced.

Cinco de Mayo, is the way to say 5 of May in Spanish and is read and pronounced in the United States like 'sink of the may'. This could be misinterpreted as something like ‘se hunde la mayonesa’ in Spanish, which is associated with a sauce very much appreciated by Mexicans.

The joke is completed with the story that the Titanic sank with 12,000 jars of Hellmann's mayonnaise aboard that would have been shipped to Veracruz if the luxury liner had reached its destination in New York in 1912.

So, next 5 of May keep all of this in mind while celebrating this special date interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.


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